Nike announced Wednesday that it was disbanding its golf clubs and balls in a shocking announcement to the golfing public. It is a major shakeup to their big-name athletes with sponsorship deals like Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Michelle Wie, Casey and, of course, Tiger Woods (should he ever play again).
As hard as Nike tried to brand itself as a golf company, it just never took. It also didn’t help that Woods won his first 8 majors, along with his three consecutive U.S. Amateur Championships, mainly using Titleist equipment before beginning the switch to Nike in 2002.
The number of people playing golf has been on the decline, contributing to an 8 percent sales drop at Nike last year. The company’s golf business has been in steady downtrend since its peak of $792 million in 2013.
While the company is used to dominating most aspects of sports retail it competes in, golf equipment has not fit that same bill. With competitors like Callaway and TaylorMade dominating the dwindling club business, Nike simply has been unable to gain traction.
Compounding that was in 2000 when Titleist launched the Pro V-1 golf ball, which took the lion share of the golf ball market and never gave it back. Taylor Made revolutionized the game when it rolled out their “Rescue” club model, which was their version of Thomas Golf’s “hybrid.” It was an instant success and became a big part of what they did in the fairway wood and driver category.
Nike will cease making golf clubs, but will continue to make golf footwear and apparel. Players will still be wearing the logo and the company will be handing out and sticking to lucrative footwear and apparel. The company said in a statement that “We’re committed to being the undisputed leader in golf footwear and apparel. We will achieve this by investing in performance innovation for athletes and delivering sustainable profitable growth for Nike Golf.”